SPIRAL ROCKS – Single Review: “Raw Suicide”

Spiral Rocks Raw Suicide

This fantastic review was written by occasional guest reviewer David Thurling, a lover of music from Britain who graciously helps me with my crushing workload. I previously featured Spiral Rocks on this blog this past May when I reviewed their single “Know Your Weapon”.

Spiral Rocks is a UK band from England’s distinctly working-class North West.  This is a region of the country that is best known for its smoke billowing factories, Victorian era tenements and dark, overcast skies.  It is also home to two of the country’s most influential music cities, Manchester and Liverpool.  Perhaps the above imagery is a little unfair in this modern day, and in this writer’s experience, there is wonderful warmth that oozes out of the very pores of the North that is distinctly more genuine and charming than anywhere else in the country.  Yet it is from the very essence of this austere world that we have seen some of the greatest musicians and bands emerge over the last 50 years or so.  It is therefore appropriate that my first listen to Widnes-based Spiral Rocks is their latest haunting tune, “Raw Suicide”.

The single’s cover art reinforces the desperation and bleakness that permeates the 5:29-long track.  Yet the at the same time, the black and white photograph of menancing clouds overlooking a steel arch bridge reveals a hopeful sun fighting to breakthrough an ominous sky.  “Raw Suicide” begins with a measured lone guitar arpeggio that defies the aural take-off that comes later. Gently picked notes move up and down the guitar neck providing a wistful backdrop to a two part vocal that immediately sets a confronting tone both vocally and lyrically.  Lets not mince words here, “Raw Suicide” is a painful confession that is indeed, raw.

Thinking to myself
That I don’t like to die.
As I’m writing this old song
With a tear in my eye

“Raw Suicide’ continues in this vein with its anguished lead vocals but then something quite special happens, almost like a reward for having made it through the inherent sadness of the first half of the song. The band erupts into an exhilarating and extended guitar solo/bridge that seems to provide hope for the antagonist. It is a soaring moment with pounding drums and bass providing a magnificent platform on which a wailing guitar lead overwhelms the listener. To finish, we go back to the beginning with the gentle guitar picking being in this case, the calm AFTER the storm. There is something about this song that reminds me of Pink Floyd, especially the beginning guitar and vocal stylings.

Spiral Rocks is an interesting story. A band that has been gigging on and off together for many years. You get the sense that bands like Spiral Rocks are gems in the rough that in another era where autotune and drum sampling were thankfully absent, they may well be receiving the attention they deserve. A refreshing, unapologetic song that is worth a listen. Spiral Rocks is Antony Shone (vocals/guitar), Dave Baker (guitar), Stephen “Rowy” Rowe (bass) & Mark Bevan (drums).

Connect with Spiral Rocks:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / YouTube
Purchase their music on iTunes / Amazon / Google Play

New Song of the Week – DEBRIS DISCS: “Animals”

Debris Discs

I recently wrote about two different musicians who use an interesting moniker for their music projects, and now have a third to introduce to my readers. Debris Discs is the solo project of British singer-songwriter James Eary, former front man of Manchester, England alternative dream pop band Coves & Caves. They released a well-received and critically acclaimed album Spinnerets in 2014, and played numerous shows, including a BBC live session, but eventually went on indefinite hiatus as the band members went off on their separate ways. James packed up his synthesizer and settled down into family life up in the hills of the High Peak in Derbyshire, but soon realized he couldn’t shake the music-making bug. So, in between day jobs, married life and helping to raise babies, he got back to writing songs and recording music.

His first single under the project Debris Discs is “Animals“, which I’ve selected as my New Song of the Week. The song was inspired by the real-life experience of working in the murky world of financial services from someone very close to James’ heart. He explains “It suggests that if things get to be too much, there’s always another, more soul-nourishing path to choose for a better life – one that might not always be the most obvious. This song should resonate with listeners in the current climate of corporate greed and horrible humans. As the chorus suggests, maybe it’s time to work with animals.”

For Debris Discs, James draws upon an eclectic mix of influences from some of his favorite acts like The Delgados, The Beach Boys, OMD, Giorgio Moroder, The Pet Shop Boys and G Funk.  Using swirling analogue synths and snappy drum machines, funky guitar notes, and a sprinkling of children’s toys he found lying around the house, James adds his pleasing vocal harmonies to create an upbeat, light-hearted tune that’s both inspiring and a delightful listen.

They’ve been working their way in
To get under your skin
Suck at your soul
Always practicing mind games
Won’t give up til they take you far too low
If these people make your blood run cold
Then it’s time to work with animals

You’ll get love that’s unconditional
And it’s OK to be fallible
Homo sapiens aren’t practical
So it’s time to work with animals

Connect with Debris Discs: Twitter
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

HERO WARSHIP – Double-Single Review: “Therewithal / Halcyon Then Gone”

Hero Warship is the solo music project of Joey Doyle, who’s also front man for the Irish band Fiction Peaks, a terrific alternative folk-rock group I’ve featured on this blog a number of times in 2016 and 2017. He released two singles “Chrysanthemum” and “Lesser of Evils” in May (2019), and now returns with another wonderful double single “Therewithal” and “Halcyon Then Gone“, which drop today, October 24. The talented Dubliner is a great songwriter and guitarist, with a beautiful singing voice too. (He’s also a pretty good visual artist.)

Doyle takes a stripped down approach on these two songs, using only guitars and piano to create a captivating soundscape for his gentle vocals. The first track “Therewithal” features layers of cheerfully strummed acoustic and rhythm guitars, accompanied by more somber piano keys that give the song a contemplative air. He earnestly sings the poignant lyrics that seem to me to speak of the ephemeral nature of happiness and contentment. “By the way, I think I thought I had a handle on life suspended on a sunbeam infinitely calls, to an individual sense of therewithal.”

“Halcyon Then Gone” is a simple but lovely song with a haunting piano-driven melody providing the only music for Doyle’s heartfelt, falsetto vocals. He told me the song is a kind of tongue and cheek look at making millions by cheating the casino (casino as a metaphor for a kind of consumer driven, shallow life style). but then giving all the money away and doing it all over again: “When I make my millions I’ll call you, to meet me at the end before we start. This time I’m sure, I’m on to my surefire winning streak, loading the dice, cleaning the house out of countless funds, then give it all away again.

Connect with Hero Warship: Twitter / Instagram
Stream:  Spotify / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play / cdbaby

LAGPASS – EP Review: “Ostrich Approach”

Lagpass EP art

Lagpass is the new music project of a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Chicago who’s previously recorded under the name Draft Evader. I’ve featured Draft Evader’s music a number of times on this blog over the past two years, and have always been impressed by his deeply personal lyrics addressing his struggles with depression and self-doubt, then set to aggressive guitar-driven melodies, and backed with bass and drums. I’ve also enjoyed watching him grow and mature as a songwriter, musician and vocalist. Now, wanting his songs to feel even more honest and raw, he’s opting for an essentially guitar-only sound, recording under the new moniker Lagpass. When I asked how he came up with that name, he explained “Lagpass is a term my brother and I used to say when we would play National Hockey League video games. It’s basically just a missed pass after you hold down the pass button too long. It’s bound to happen at least once or twice a game and I catch myself saying “lagpass” all the time.”

He’s just released his first recording as Lagpass, a new EP titled Ostrich Approach, featuring four relatively short tracks that get right to the point with only his guitar and vocals providing the sounds we hear. First up is the title track, which seems to speak to solving your problems by eliminating the shit that’s complicating your life. His resonant, jangly guitar notes provide all the music needed to create a dramatic backdrop for his earnest, almost raspy vocals as he sings:

you can take your numbers
divide them by your clutter
then you should burn that old ski mask
you can take that platform
& add it to your ant farm
then you should dump it in the grass

so sick of hamsters, ghosts, zombies and vampires
I think it’s time that I light a match
but I’m allergic to sulfur
no need to sulk & suffer
here’s a lighter, it’s time to detach

On “Reassurance“, he ponders conflicted feelings of wondering if he’s going crazy, or just going through some difficult times, that everything’s basically okay, and you just got to deal with it. Musically, the track has a folk-rock sound, with fuzz-covered strummed electric guitars.

this constant stress and voices in my head
always talking questioning my sanity
something’s wrong with me
nothing’s wrong with me

replaced eating with dry heaving
two little devils resting on my shoulder blades
reacquainted with high maintenance
you gave your two cents
but you’ve still got hell to pay

i’m exhausted, still nauseous
just looking for a way to enjoy the day
reassurance is just a burden
can’t change nothin’ cept the way you handle fate

Old Ashes” speaks to the difficulties of maintaining a relationship, of the compromises we must often make to keep it alive, worrying about whether it can survive, and struggling with constant doubts. His clear, heavily-strummed electric guitar work here is wonderful.

I take up smoking again
just so I can be with you
I’m overthinking this mess
seems to be all I can do

do you love me?
she said prove that you love me

she got a new address
moved into her granny’s house
on an air mattress
with John Prine and Houdmouth
she said: “prove that you love me
do you love me?”

She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” addresses the sad reality that she’s moved out, leaving you to contemplate what went wrong, and realizing that perhaps it was doomed from the start, given each of your troubled pasts. Man, these lyrics are heavy, and so packed with meaning!

she doesn’t live here anymore
opened my mouth and held the door
scattered across the kitchen floor
she doesn’t live here anymore

don’t wanna live here anymore
too paranoid for close quarters
there’s silence down the corridor
she doesn’t live here anymore

two children both from broken homes
borrowing tape to mend their own

Once again, I’m really impressed by his intelligent and thoughtful songwriting and great guitar work, and look forward to following him on his latest musical journey as Lagpass.

MELISANDRE’S BEAVER – Double-Single Review: “Brother/Never Be That Cool 2019”

Melisandre's Beaver

Just from their name alone, it’s clear that any music coming from a band who call themselves Melisandre’s Beaver is guaranteed to take listeners on a wild ride. Influenced by some of their favorite bands like Green Day, Blink-182, AC/DC, Weezer, Reel Big Fish and Tenacious D, they play a rowdy style of music they refer to as ‘spicy punk’, which pretty much nails their frenetic, head-banging sound. Formed in 2016, the Dover, England-based band now consists of Daniel Drew (guitar, lead vocals), Sam ‘Mac’ MacNamara (bass, backing vocals) and James ‘Nesbo’ Nesbitt (drums, backing vocals). As for their provocative name, they explain it was chosen “after a lengthy ‘you had to be there at the time’ joke from our mate Tom.  Melisandre’s Beaver are three mates who decided that our friendships were so good, we needed to start a band to calm things down.”

Melisandre's Beaver single art

They released a terrific debut EP No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken in 2017, and followed a year later with their fireball of an album If Only We Were Serious, featuring 13 mind-blowing bundles of sonic dynamite. In late September, they returned with an outrageous new single “Brother” and its B-side “Never Be That Cool 2019”. “Brother” is a hilarious ode to Hulk Hogan, the retired pro wrestler and TV personality.

According to a great write-up about the band on The Sweet Distortion Blog, the idea of writing a song about Hogan was born from a trip to Oxford that Drew and MacNamara took with a few friends. They spent five days on a small boat, dressed as pro wrestlers who “beat the shit out of each other. Drew was dressed up as Mankind/Cactus Jack and MacNamara was dressed up as Hulk Hogan.” When they got home, they began watching Hulk Hogan videos online and laughing at how ridiculous his act was. “A massive orange leathery balding beefcake. He’s like a cartoon character. All show, Doesn’t give a fuck, he’s all about the people and the showmanshipThe song explores his nature of being a badass, unstoppable, torrent of showmanship along with some of his ridiculous well-known phrases thrown in.”

The track opens with a voiceover snippet from one of Hogan’s shows, then explodes with a bombastic onslaught of raging guitars, driving bass and smashing drums that never lets up for a second. Drew’s fiery riffs slice through the airwaves like a machete-wielding banshee, and Mac’s intricate bass line is a thing of wonder. The interplay between them is fucking incredible, and combined with Nesbo’s relentless, pummeling drumbeats, “Brother” delivers all the heavy punk rock goodness one could possibly hope for. Drew’s powerful vocals are aggressive and raw as he all but screams the lyrics, matching the music’s intensity note for note.

The bold, in-your-face lyrics, written by Mac, perfectly capture Hogan’s wildly exaggerated bravado and bluster:

Well let me tell you something
Brother I built myself from nothing
With the meanest as my witness
Its time we got right down to business

I fought with giants and the warriors in the glory days
Ill wipe that smile off your face
With a thirst for violence and a hunger for the winning ways
I’ll put you right back in your place

What ya gonna do?
What ya gonna do when I’m running wild, all over you?
What are you going to do?

Well let me tell you something
I straight up started out with nothing
Natural bravado
Force feed you if it’s tough to swallow

I stripped the flesh right off the dirtiest player in the game
Fought wars with savages and braves
I’ve broken hearts and smashed through boulders that were in my way
I’m an all you can eat showmanship buffet 

The zany video for “Brother” was shot by Mac’s sister Emily and edited by him, and showcases the band’s playful, high-energy live performances. Filmed in a car paint spray booth owned by Mac’s dad, which the guys filled with soft play equipment to create the feel of a wrestling ring, they dressed up in tight spandex, wigs, sunglasses and walrus mustaches to parody Hulk Hogan. The Sweet Distortion Blog article stated that after filming the video, the band “experienced what those in the removals business call ‘The Gray Lung’. The car spraying booth being covered in dust left the band hacking up their lungs afterwards.” Didn’t someone once write about suffering for the sake of one’s art, or something to that effect?

Never Be That Cool 2019” is a remake of a track that first appeared on their EP No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken. This version is 37 seconds shorter, which is achieved by a much faster tempo than the original, which to my ears had a Weezer/Blink-182 vibe. Thanks to the sped-up tempo and harder-driving music, the new version has a more of a punk rock feel, sounding like a song Green Day could have recorded. Also, Drew’s gruff vocals remind me a bit of Mick Jagger, giving the track an edgier feel. I like the original, but I like this remake even more.

The lyrics speak to feeling like a bit of a boring loser, who will never be cool enough:

Watchin MTV2 when I get home from school
Darling I’m obsessed with my cesspool
I’m probably not the greatest , I’m sure I’ll never make it
and I’ll definitely never be that cool

Connect with Melisandre’s Beaver: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase: Bandcamp / Google Play

New Song of the Week – MARVIN DEE BAND: “Sweetlake City”

Until recently, I wasn’t aware that The Netherlands had such a thriving music scene. Last month, I featured Dutch indie rock band Morgendust on this blog, and am now pleased to introduce the Marvin Dee Band. With their pleasing folk rock sound, influenced by such acts as Dave Matthews Band, Peter Gabriel, Gavin DeGraw, Sting and John Mayer, they honestly sound like they could be from Nashville or Austin, rather than Rotterdam. Although it was released a few weeks ago, I’ve chosen their latest single “Sweetlake City” as my New Song of the Week.

The Marvin Dee Band has been through many changes since forming earlier in the decade. These changes were the inspiration for their new album, simply and appropriately titled Changes. This wrenching period of unrest continued for more than two years, during which the band parted ways with three band members while in the middle of recording the new album. The lineup now consists of front man and songwriter Marvin Dee (guitar & lead vocals), Quintijn Kuypers (bass, backing vocals), Cas Ronckers (keyboards, backing vocals), Karsten Klemm (electric guitar, backing vocals) and Jonas Nieuwenbroek (drums).

Marvin Dee Band 2

The album was written and produced by Marvin Dee, and released on October 6th only in physical form on CD and Vinyl. It will be released on all streaming services soon. In addition to their new lineup, the band went all out for the recording of the album.  Wanting a fuller, more sophisticated sound, they recruited Ben Rodenburg for horn arrangements, Myrthe van de Weetering for strings arrangements, and Age Kat for additional electric guitar. I’ve listened to Changes, and it’s a beauty. Each of the 11 outstanding tracks reveal a little bit of the band’s story, reflecting the turbulent times the band went through these past two years, and emerging stronger then ever before.

The fourth single from Changes, “Sweetlake City” speaks to chasing dreams while also being thankful for what you already have. The band explains the inspiration behind the track: “A few years ago, Marvin traveled to America for a short solo tour. There, he met with Susan Rogers, former engineer/producer for Prince and the Barenaked Ladies. Susan told him about the ‘slingshot’: that part of your life that feels like it’s holding you back, but what eventually will prove to be the driving force and motivation to make music, launching you forward to where you want to be. For Marvin, that slingshot is his ‘Sweetlake City’ of Zoetermeer – the place where he works five days a week to provide himself with a steady income, in the hopes of one day making a living from music.”

The song has a rousing Americana vibe, thanks to a stellar blend of rhythm, electric and Country-style guitars, accompanied by a vibrant mix of lively piano keys, exuberant horns and smashing drums. The instrumentals are all fantastic, each one of them standing out, yet perfectly balanced to create an exhilarating backdrop for Marvin’s commanding, heartfelt vocals. It’s a wonderful song.

You spend all day doing work that doesn’t pay enough
And you don’t even like enough
You want to get away from this Sweetlake City
We’re all drunk in the morning on dreams that you don’t even dare to tell
But in the light every evening it seems like they’re right there
We’re all hooked up on plans made by someone we hardly know at all
But it’s hard to get up in the morning when life drags you down

Show me how, well tell me now
Sing out loud, want to live a little more
You want to live a little more

Connect with Marvin Dee Band:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Deezer
Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

BLOOM DE WILDE – Single Review: “Rock, Plant & Animal”

I recently learned about London, England-based singer-songwriter, producer and visual artist Bloom de Wilde when she reached out to me about her new single “Rock, Plant & Animal.” I was enchanted by her fascinating avant garde sound and imaginative approach to her music, and am happy to feature her on my blog. Influenced by her favorite artists such as Radiohead, Erik Satie, Jeff Buckley, Meredith Monk, Miles Davis, Tom Waits, Björk, Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, NIna Simone, Moondog and Toxic Chicken, Bloom fuses dream, ethno and experimental art pop, folk and jazz with surrealistic yet uplifting lyrics and unconventional melodies to create exuberant, colorful soundscapes that transport us to dreamy, faraway places.

Bloom De Wilde2

Bloom has been writing and recording songs for several years, and some of her older tracks can be found on her Soundcloud account. In July, she released a beautiful single “Soul Siren”, and on October 7th, she dropped “Rock, Plant & Animal”, a hopeful ode to nature and our Earth. The track was written and arranged by Bloom and co-produced by her and Nick Trepka, who also did the mixing. Recording was done at the Cowshed Studio in London by Joe Leech, with assistance by Grace Banks, and mastered by Nick Watson. Bloom sang vocals, played guitar, piano and programming, and had assistance by several musicians, including Nick Trepka on bass and programming, Yuval Juba Wetzler on drums, Sam Ritchie on flugelhorn and trumpet, Jally Kebba Susso on kora (a West African long-necked harp lute), Gazel Algan on viola and violin, and Mao Yamada on double bass.

And what a captivating song it is, with the kora, horns and strings adding a dreamy, exotic lushness to the sound. The rich instrumentation and enthralling melody provide a stunning backdrop for Bloom’s bewitching vocals. Her unusual and distinctive vocal style is somewhat reminiscent of Björk, in that she uses her voice like another instrument. She’s not quite a soprano, but reaches almost childlike high notes as her voice sweetly croons and soars, creating quite an emotional impact.

About the song, Bloom explains: “I wrote this song for my children, about this living Earth I love so dearly, and all the precious life upon it. I believe everything in this world has a living essence, a soul, and all is connected. We are all One – Rock, Plant and Animal. We are all instances of the Universe, perceiving itself from infinite subjective perspectives. With everything that is happening in the world right now, I think it is clear the time has come to change our ways. To approach each day with humble gratitude, our hearts open wide, souls radiating, dancing and dreaming a new world into reality. A harmonious, life-sustaining world, where we look after each other, our animal brothers and sisters, and our Earth mother that nurtures us.”

There lives a humble sound
That renders love and peace
It ripples on the water
And rustles in the trees

We’ll make that sound a yes
We’ll make that sound a yes, yes, yes

Of our beloved earth
As puzzle poem beings
Rock, Plant and Animal all dream
We’ll bravely open doors
Our shadows softy cooing
My darling, you’ve done the wait, now sing
Your true song

And make that sound a yes
And make that sound a yes, yes, yes

The enchanting video was produced by Bloom and Kai Nobuko, and stars Bloom dancing about a forest clearing, wearing a colorful floral headpiece designed by Jimmy Boer. As she dances, bright flowers, butterflies and birds issue from her fingertips. It’s all so wonderfully magical.

Connect with Bloom:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

PHILIP MORGAN LEWIS – Video Premier: “Blowtorched Dreams”

Philip Morgan Lewis

It’s hard to believe that nearly two years have passed since I featured British singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Philip Morgan Lewis on this blog in November 2017, when I reviewed his brilliant, meticulously-crafted album Grief Harbour. The London East Ender melds alternative rock, blues, garage rock and folk influences to create his exciting, bluesy rock sound that complements his unique, raspy vocal style. Following up on Grief Harbour, he released a fun album House Works that featured eight house/EDM tracks. Now Philip is back with a bold video for his new single “Blowtorched Dreams“, which I’m honored to premier today. The single will be officially released on the 28th of October as a digital download and 7-inch vinyl.

Philip Morgan Lewis3

Philip wrote the lyrics and music, performed all the instruments and sang vocals on the track, as well as produced the song, which is being released via label TX2 Records. Backing vocals were sung by Vick E and his daughter Little A. For the recording of the track, Philip built a one-stringed instrument to play all the twangy slides, adding a rather dark country-folk vibe to his bluesy guitars and bass, all of which sound so damn good. He’s a remarkable musician and vocalist who manages to wring out every last drop of emotion with his deft, passionate guitar-playing and distinctive, raspy singing voice. When he sings of his pain, you believe every word, and the deep, almost tortured guitar work only serves to intensify those moods. It’s a brilliant track.

The dark lyrics speak to a sense of despair and hopelessness, of a life gone down the tubes as a result of having lived a self-destructive existence. Or, could it be the bitter realization of having expected too much from a cold, cruel city that eats up and discards you?

I wander night and day
Sidestepping all the way
No brighter light is gonna come
Is gonna come for me baby
Trapped in an altered state
With somebody else’s fate
No kingdom come no kingdom come
The road is done for me baby

When the chips finally fall on the ground
And the sod is just you hangin’ round
You know what’s it all about

Blowtorched dreams
Leaving blood on the pavement still
Blowtorched dreams
Leaving lives in the gutter still

I step into the dark
Draw from a crooked stack
The light is gone the light is gone
The light is gone and it ain’t coming back
No one but me to blame
I’d do it all the same
The time has come the time has come
The time has come and I don’t feel no shame

The fascinating video was directed, produced and edited by Philip and Vicky Crawley, and features black and white footage shot in and around Los Angeles, juxtaposed with scenes of Philip sitting in a darkened room singing the song. The video starts off with scenes of arriving by plane at LAX, followed by beautiful images of the sun-drenched city, evoking a sense of promise (we’re even shown a billboard with images spelling out ‘I love LA’). Suddenly, there’s a flash of light and a spacey synth chord, at which point the images become distorted with a kind of static effect that Philip refers to as “singularity distortion”, conveying a sense of tension and discord. Eventually, the scenes transition to the darkness of night, with images of raging wildfires and rather disturbing views of a long, dark tunnel leading down into the bowels of an old building, suggesting that the dreams have gone up in flames.

Connect with Philip: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / YouTube / Google Play
Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Deezer / Bandcamp

SHIPS HAVE SAILED – Single Review: “Skin”

Ships Have Sailed 2

I’ve been revisiting a lot of artists and bands I’ve featured earlier this year, as so many are dropping great new music. Another such band is Los Angeles-based duo Ships Have Sailed, whose beautiful and moving single “Escape” I reviewed this past February. I loved that song so much it went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30! They’ve just dropped a lovely new single “Skin“, which I’m thrilled to introduce to my readers today.

Formed in 2012 by songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Will Carpenter, Ships Have Sailed has included a number of musicians over the years, but now consists of Will and drummer Art Andranikyan. They play a pleasing style of alternative pop-rock characterized by beautiful melodies, thoughtful, uplifting lyrics, and sublime arrangements and instrumentation. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Will twice now, including just last Friday, and his kindness and warmth shines through in his engaging vocals.

“Skin” is about pulling down our barriers and allowing ourselves to become vulnerable in order to more fully connect with others in deeper, more meaningful ways. Being vulnerable to uncomfortable emotions and pain in turn enables us to feel empathy and sympathy toward others. About the song, Will explains: “Has anyone ever told you that you need to grow a thicker skin? I can’t even count how many times people have told me that. But they’re essentially telling you to numb your feelings, and I think that our feelings and emotions are the essence of our humanity. The music I create wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t lean into my emotions when I’m writing, and so ‘Skin’ is my way of expressing that I’m content with feeling as much as I do…even if it hurts sometimes.”

Musically, “Skin” is more stripped down from their typical sound, with an incredibly pleasing folk/Americana vibe. The instrumentals consist primarily of lovely strummed guitars, including acoustic guitar by guest musician Steve Stout, accompanied by delicate, crystalline synths and Art’s gentle percussion. Will’s smooth, heartfelt vocals exude a tender vulnerability expressed by the poignant lyrics:

It may be thin, but I love it,
feel the pain, rise above it

We don’t have to wound each other,
you’re my sister, I’m your brother

Open heart, open eyes
let them in…this skin so thin

The beautiful, heartwarming video shows scenes of Will and Art walking various streets in Los Angeles, as well as Will getting a ship tattooed on his back at Golden Daggers tattoo studio, and several people in a range of emotional states posing for pictures at The Spot photo studio on Sunset Boulevard. It was directed and produced by Michael Easterling and Jaala Ruffman of Talkboy TV and filmed by David Parks.

Connect with Ships Have Sailed on  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes  / Google Play / Amazon

THE COMMON VIEW – EP Review: “Man on the Moon”

The Common View EP art

Early this year, I featured young British alt-rock band The Common View on this blog after learning about them and becoming impressed by both their outstanding music and outspoken advocacy for social justice. Formed in 2018, the Leeds four-piece consists of Dom Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jose Ignacio Barrera (guitar), Jacob Lindsay (drums, vocals) and Joe Sykes (bass). (After recording their latest EP, Jacob took a hiatus from the band to study abroad for seven months, and has been temporarily replaced on drums by Venezuelan native Marco La Fata, who may remain with the band long-term).

They released their self-titled debut EP The Common View, Vol. 1 in December 2018, then quickly followed with a provocative single “Fuck Them”, a scathing critique of the failure of British society and the government to adequately address the chronic issues of health care, poverty and homelessness. In May of this year, they released their single “A Perfect Bridge” (which I reviewed), then followed up with the stunning Coldplay-esque “The End of Time” in July.  Now the prolific guys are back with a wonderful new EP Man on the Moon, which dropped October 7.

True to their passion for writing and recording topical, socially relevant songs, the title track “Man on the Moon” speaks to the issue of climate change. They drive their message home with a dramatic and gorgeous soundscape of chiming and jangly guitars, accompanied by swirling synths, a deep, throbbing bass line and crisp percussion. The arrangement and production values are superb, and I think this is one of their finest songs yet. I really love Jacob’s vocals, and here he fervently makes his case for standing up to the empty rhetoric of many politicians and climate change deniers and doing what each of us can to affect meaningful change.

Hey, we need to talk
I’m getting tired of politicians and their speeches and their forked tongues
They put a man on the moon
But now they’re blinded by the money from the gasses filling our lungs
Stand your ground, as you turn it upside down
Let the tide roll in as a solid rain
And don’t mind me
I’m just another one who’s nobody
But I’ll just do my best to make a change

Annabelle” is a delightfully rousing, guitar-driven head banger, and a further testament to these guys’ incredible musicianship. Dom and Jose slice through the airwaves with an exuberant mix of jagged and swirling riffs, while Joe and Jacob keep the hard-hitting rhythms pumping at full throttle. If this track doesn’t get you going, then you must be dead! The lyrics speak to a woman named Annabelle who’s driving him crazy with her teasing and indifference, making him fall for her but withholding her affections. It’s a misery many of us have experienced at one time or another.

You’re putting me down
You got a real sick mind to take my time
Hearing the sound of your voice inside my head
You took my heart and left me underneath your spell 

The third track “What Can I Say?” delivers more of the band’s signature driving melodies and mind-blowing guitar work. The chiming guitars in the bridge are absolutely breathtaking, leaving me dumbstruck by their beauty. The song is about a relationship that’s beyond repair, and Jacob laments of the hurt and betrayal he feels:

I used to think that it was all okay
But, if you are gonna treat me in that way
You got another thing coming girl
You’re not the only person in this world
So stop, cut the shit and let me find my way
Feel like I’m living in a dream
With all the shit that I’ve seen
Who ever knew it could get that dark?

Even with only three tracks, Man on the Moon is a spectacular little EP. I’ve stated it before, but it bears repeating that there’s nothing common about The Common View, as these guys are phenomenal songwriters and musicians. I’ve loved every single track they’ve released, and these three rank high among their collection.

Catch The Common View at one of these upcoming shows:

18 October – Bar 21, Manchester, England, w/Bluelights, The Notion, Friday Forever & Skinner’s Lane
8 November – 360 Club, Leeds, England, w/LØE & Pathways

The cool artwork for the EP was designed by Rachel Wilcox.

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Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play